Beneath the inspiring cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres lies the crypt. “Underground” gives me the heebiejeebies; nevertheless, part of this crypt dates back to the Gallo-Roman sixth century. I gave up the “creeps” in favor of seeing such magnificence.

As I entered the crypt on the northern facade, a chapel revealed itself through this beveled-glass window.

As I got deeper into the underground, this fresco whispered to me.
Upon further inspection, I discovered that it is a depiction of various saints performing mass before Charlemagne.(Charlemagne – one of my medieval heroes!)

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These strange statues hanging on the walls here were once on the royal portal, but have since been placed in the crypt to protect them.

The walls refused to be ignored –
some of them still held tightly their painted decorations,
like this navy blue fleur-de-lys.

I followed the light emitted from these sconces that led to the Lady of the Underground Chapel.

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And here is the item I so wanted to see – the sancta camisia in Latin, or the holy veil that the faithful believe was worn by Mary during Her Son’s birth. The Empress Irene of Byzantium gave this to Charlemagne (Charlemagne again!). Later, Charlie’s grandson Charles le Chauve gave it to the church.

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In 1712, the reliquary box containing the relic – which is itself a work of art – was unsealed,
and the veil was discovered to be a five-meter length of silk dating back to the first century.

Thanks to the Revolutionaries, only two fragments of the relic survive.
One is kept in the church, the other in the crypt.

Before I left I happened upon this wall where the candles’ shadows hovered above the artwork,
as though they wanted to be part of the show, too.

What was it like for pilgrims a thousand years ago?
Did they look upon such things with the wonder that I do in the twenty-first century?

Time may be a traveler, but we can grab his coattails and take the ride, too.